OPRF’s Nora Sullivan flips from swimming to diving

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RIVERSIDE — Many divers have a background in gymnastics. Nora Sullivan, a new diver for Oak Park-River Forest, has a background in swimming.

After five weeks of training in diving, Sullivan has learned 11 different dives, which Coach Mark Pappalardo says is “pretty tremendous,” especially considering she isn’t a gymnast. She placed first of four divers at the Riverside-Brookfield diving meet invitational on Saturday with a score of 219.5.

Competitor Courtney Leverenz from Richards High School in Oak Lawn received 193.8. OPRF’s school record is about 400, Pappalardo said.

“Since she’s never been asked to flip, her ability to adapt to what I’m asking her to do is pretty phenomenal and encouraging,” he said. “My goals for her are to keep improving and see her come out every day and make herself better.”

Sullivan flipped over into diving over this past summer from her passion for competitive swimming. Her mom, Kathleen Duffy, said Nora started competitively swimming with TOPS, the West Cook YMCA Swim Team, when she was 6 or 7.

After suffering a knee dislocation as a freshman and bulging disc in her back about a year ago, Sullivan decided to transition from the OPRF varsity swim team into diving since she can’t extend or arch her back the way she would need to in order to swim competitively. She had been on the varsity swim team since she was a freshman.

Nora’s dad, Frank Sullivan, said, “She just enjoys being around the pool and the swim team to a great extent that she wanted to continue to be a part of it.”

The other girls on the OPRF diving team, Bianca Fowler and Jane Kuntz, have welcomed her on board, Nora said. “They’ve answered my bunches of questions and explain everything.”

“Diving is so different,” she asserted. “It’s not as physically taxing, but it’s more dangerous, more thrilling!”

She’s gotten to know the divers but still knows the swimmers.

“It’s a fantastic family. Some of them I’ve known since I was five, and then there are other people I just met this year who are just as fabulous,” she said about the OPRF swimmers and divers.

Sullivan’s also active in Best Buddies, which mixes students with fellow students who have disabilities, and New ERA, a club focused on gender equality and empowerment. She’s taking five AP classes and photography. Sullivan was also selected for this past summer’s J. Kyle Braid Leadership program, in which selected student-athletes learn leadership skills for a week in Villa Grove, Colo. Kids from schools across the western suburbs learned skills for refusing alcohol and drugs that they will bring back to their schools and also enjoyed outdoor activities such as horseback riding and even aintballing in the Rocky Mountains.

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